Part the Eighty Sixth: Abigail Charts a Course
“So how does this work?” Charity asked Abigail. It was after dinner, and the three women of the Raging Gale were in the captain’s cabin for the night.
“Touch me backstaff and yer life is forfeit,” said Abigail, without looking up from her work on the map table.
Charity quickly removed her hand from the long piece of wood with two curved pieces along its shaft. When she saw that Abigail wasn’t about to draw a knife on her, she casually made her way to an empty barrel next to Hope and took a seat.
Under Abigail’s left hand Hope saw two charts, one showing a large portion of the New World from Carolina down to Hispaniola and the islands in between, the other a closer look at those islands above Cuba. At Abigail’s right was the bound chapbook, from which she consulted some sums before she took a fine piece of cord and positioned it over the second chart. She then marked a length and strung it from one point to another, positioning ends of the cord together and apart like an inchworm crossing the paper.
“So where are we?” Hope asked Abigail when she was finished examining the chart.
“By my reckoning, we be here.” She pointed to the chart with the close-up of the islands, “to the north and east of Nassau. If we continue southeast say a week, following these isles to the south and east,” Abigail traced her fingers over the thin slivers of land, “it should take us to the Windward Passage. With the blessing of Providence we land a prize as we cross it, making for more treasure to bring with us to Tortuga.”
“And the book,” asked Charity. “What is that for?”
“That be me rutter,” said Abigail. “There be notes here that help tie these charts together into one larger map.”
“You have a map you made of this area?” Charity asked. “Can we see it?”
“Nay,” said Abigail.
“It’s too important to the ship and venture,” said Hope. “Which is why you take every chart as booty, isn’t it?”
“Aye, that’s right. And with each new chart, I update the rutter and build the main chart.”
“And this chart of yours, how big is it?” asked Charity.
“She details quite a bit of the New World, from the waters off Virginia down the coast to Forte do Presépio, the Portos’ most northern holding, and most of the isles between them. It be good in spots away from there, mostly north around Nieu Amsterdam, but that’s not where the map is at its best.”
“That’s a very large area,” said Hope.
“And this makes it, what, many yards on each side?” asked Charity. “The size of a mainsail, perhaps?”
Abigial shook her head with a slight chuckle. “They’d be pulling planks apart until the Gale were splinters if they be looking for a chart like that.”
“What are you trying to do,” Hope asked Charity, “find Abigail’s charts and offer them to another crew for a bounty?”
“How much do you think I could get for them?” she asked.
The cabin fell silent…
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